As millions of us are riveted to our television sets, to cable news for hours at a time watching France defend itself against Islamic extremists, there may well be another sneak attack taking place right here on the soil of the good old US of A.
We all recall the fairly extreme defense systems set up across the government after 9/11, not all of them still in force, and many of them which should never have even been instigated. Not in a free country. But because of terror and fear, the memory of the World Trade Towers’ collapse, actions were taken that eventually shamed the entire country with their innocent purpose of self-defense. Some of these are still operative. Many of them tried to do away with such things as the right to free assembly, the right to criticize the government, etc.
When a nation faces an assault of this kind, there is a natural tendency to not only protect but to strike back, under the cover of what we here in America like to call the “rule of law.”
The same thing will happen in France. Self-protective measures will blossom like spring flowers. Many of the French, already uneasy about the size of the Muslim population within its borders – approximately 9 per cent – consciously or not have been drifting rightwards, organizing politically to rid the country of its mid-Eastern immigrants, of its “Jews” – always a sure fire happy thing – extending at the present time even to the white Russians beating at their doors from the Ukraine and Georgia who are reputedly taking French jobs.
This anti-immigrant feeling is not only a French trend. It has and will spread through Switzerland, Italy, Spain, even Great Britain. And it mirrors the anti-immigrant attitudes of the current US House and Senate.
Now to camouflage. What we mean is what can happen when our attention is focused elsewhere and we neglect to remember that our own country has laws and regulations it cherishes, many of which are simple rights granted throughout our history, some of them more recent.
In the wake of 9/11, Congress passed the Homeland Security Act. In the wake of Pearl Harbor, Congress also passed defensive measures, including as we recall imprisoning US citizens of Japanese descent.
Under a cloud of fear and concern, ambitious men may try to reinstitute a kind of lower-case fascism. Under this same cloud, ideas and actions may be presented to us camouflaged by our own hysteria.
Without meaning to implicate one US political party or another, Congress is now controlled by Republicans, well-known for being more hawkish than dove-like. And with the nation as a whole more nervous than before in its history – after all, World War II was a “good” war – we can expect a flurry of constitutionally questionable measures to be passed easily amid angry words, threats, and vengeful instincts although the reason for revenge is yet on the horizon.
This is the hour when our Constitution takes precedence over fear and terror. It takes precedence over revenge and punishment. It takes precedence over our own as yet unexperienced nightmares. Which is not to say, the United States shouldn’t be on high alert. But it is the time to remember that our own Muslim population is 1.3 per cent of the national numbers, and that thousands of these people have assimilated into our system willingly. They too believe in goodness and progress and education and working hard.
This may be a moment of greatness for the United States.
That moment will live or die within the next few days. The deadly and horrifying events occurring in and around Paris today will, in the next few weeks,
offer the US Congress an opportunity to stand above and apart and to act as though, in fact, the US is a country of laws, rights, reason.
We can only hope.